It is 7:45 in the morning on an already humid mid-August New York City day. And I am standing on the corner of 25th and 1st hailing my first cab.
“Where to?” he asks.
“The Village,” I say.
To which he responds, “What part?” as if I were to know the Village had parts.
Luckily I am a quick thinker, so I say, “The middle.” He now looks puzzled. Clearly we are at an impasse, prompting me to say, “Look, why don’t you decide where the middle is, and I’ll take it from there.”
This seems to work, as we have re-entered traffic and are now barreling down the street towards the middle — as if the middle were a Wal-Mart on Black Friday, and we, in search of the last ten-dollar flat screen TV.
Making matters worse, I have left Dashboard Jesus back home. Thankfully, I had been running with Amy Grant since the Carter Administration. So I begin to hum “El Shaddai.”
Suddenly we come to a screeching halt, and I am now singing “El Shaddai, El Shaddai, El-elyon na Adonai.” It seems to work, as before I can finish, we have come to a complete, screech-less stop. At a place I will come to know as Sheridan Square, where he says, “This is it.”
Gazing out the window, I am greeted by a newspaper stand, street sweeper, and bagel cart. Thinking out loud, I say, “This can’t be it.” Where are the drag queens, Dykes on Bikes, voguers, rainbow flags, and glitter?
So I ask, “Are you sure this is the middle?” Hoping he’s tired of my singing and wants me out of his cab. Unfortunately, he replies “Yup. This is it. This is the middle.” I begrudgingly pay my fare and exit the cab where I find myself standing in front of the legendary Stonewall Inn. Which clearly has seen better decades.
Couple this with the newspaper stand, street sweeper, and bagel cart and I couldn’t help but wonder how disappointed the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah would be had they been standing here with me in the middle of the Village. I suspect they’d say something like, “You’ve had 4,000 years to rebuild a wicked city. This is all you’ve built? We expected better.”
More importantly, I expected better. I have been in this city for two hours, and she has already tried to take my life. Moreover, it is abundantly clear she struggles with truthfulness. Either that or whoever came up with the slogan “The city that never sleeps” never took a cab at 7:45 in the morning to the middle of the Village.